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The Geneva Cargo Day Ball proved an evening to remember while helping raise funds for hospital ship Africa Mercy. Now attention is turning to the Cargo Day to be held on 4 October

Glasses clinked at the first Cargo Day Ball held by Mercy Ships Switzerland on May 18 where talk focused on how to make a lasting difference in Africa.

Overlooking Lake Geneva in the grounds of the Domaine de Penthes, the setting could not have been more different to the African ports where the hospital vessel serves the needy.

But the event provided the wellheeled Swiss shipping community with the chance to prove that there was more to the shipping business than making money. “We believe people matter,” Gilles Rolland, managing director of Geneva-based Nyala Shipping, told about 180 oil companies, commodity traders, brokers, and shipowners.

That was borne out by Barry Rogliano Salles (BRS) broker Tim Webb, chairman of the Geneva Cargo Day committee, who confirmed that more than $300,000 was raised at last year’s fund-raising event, where 60 cargoes were given by brokers and ship agents and nine address commissions by charterers and shipowners.

But that was “the beginning of a much larger success story,” said fellow Mercy Ships board member Roland Decorvet, whose parents were close friends of Don and Deyon Stephens who started the charity in Switzerland nearly 40 years ago.

Accolades were handed out by Francoise Andre, part the family of Suisse-Atlantique, to Clearlake/Gunvor for coming up with the highest amount of cargo. The award for the highest donation was shared between Oldendorff Carriers and Stena Bulk/Concordia.

TradeWinds — whose news editor Geoff Garfield visited the hospital ship during its stay in Madagascar last year and which was a partner in the Cargo Day event — was thanked for its support.

LIVE TRANSMISSION TO SHIP One highlight of the evening included live transmission from Captain John Borrow aboard the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest private hospital ship.

Barrow spelled out what was being achieved while the vessel is on field service currently in Benin, West Africa, where it has performed 1,957 life-saving surgeries. Stena RoRo chief executive Per Westling gave a sneak preview of the progress of Mercy Ships new vessel under construction in China, the Global Mercy.

The newbuilding contract was signed with Tianjin Xingang shipyard in December 2013 and appears to have been something of a labour of love for Sweden’s Stena RoRo, which handled the newbuilding’s concept design and is responsible for organising on-site supervision.

But despite the challenges of building in China, Westling appears to have no regrets. “The project has topped all I’ve done,” Westling said, adding that when it is delivered next year, the Global Mercy will have twice the medical capacity of the existing vessel. The Mercy Ships theme has been taken up in a new eight-part TV series which started airing this week on the National Geographic Channel.

The opening episode of The Surgery Ship looks at how the future of one man is transformed by its surgeons, and how volunteer experts make life-changing decisions under intense pressure.

Mercy Ships has worked in over 70 countries, where more than 2.5 million people are said to have benefited.

Ian Lewis

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